Bella, Nurturing Lift, LLC
A Bit About Bella and OT
Hi Mamas! So excited to be writing to you this week. Before we jump into infant development and milestones, I figured I’d give you a little blurb about me. I’m Bella – an occupational therapist and Tummy Time expert on Long Island that specializes in women’s health and infant/pediatric development. Now, many of you may be wondering, what is an occupational therapist (OT)? We’re kind of like the Swiss Army Knives of health care professionals – plug us into whatever scenario/setting/client population, and our skill sets may vary a bit. BUT at the heart of every OT is this notion…our goal is to facilitate you – our client – living your life to your fullest by doing what is most meaningful to YOU! For my private practice, mama and little one are both my clients. Although I specifically make a plan of care with you around lactation and/or infant feeding, I also recognize that we are the sum of our parts, and that you both are your own individuals.
So, with introductions out of the way, let’s jump into the topic of “Infant Milestones.” This post isn’t your traditional guide on development (although there will certainly be tips and tricks throughout). What I am hoping you take away from this is confidence and perspective. As parents, we all want our children to thrive – but it’s so important to respect that thriving looks different for every little one. Of course, we want to meet their basic needs (food, clean diapers, shelter, love). We also want to remember that they are their own little person, with likes and dislikes, feelings, personalities – just like you and me!
Tummy Time – Am I Doing This Right?
Let’s take a look at “Tummy Time” for example. As a pediatric OT, I constantly see parents bombarded by so many messages from other parents, pediatricians, and Dr. Google on “How to do Tummy Time the right way”. How overwhelming is that?! Especially if your little one hates Tummy Time (gasps). There is no cookie-cutter “right” way, mama! There are two very helpful concepts that can be invaluable for approaching Tummy Time: flexibility and opportunity.
Just like you or I may change what we are in the mood for or to do, so can babies! One day – even one hour – little one may be all about playing on his or her tummy; the next time, not so much. It’s the general trend that we’re looking to be consistent. Which brings me to the next concept —
Courtesy of Nurturing Lift, LLC
Although well-meaning, many pediatricians and health care professionals may stick to this idea that little one HAS to do Tummy Time for “x” amount of minutes a day. That notion is too inflexible, and oftentimes leaves parents feeling overwhelmed when they can’t meet that rigid criteria. So, there’s a growing movement of us that recommends ditching the clock and don’t worry about minutes. You heard me – stop looking at the clock, mama! Instead, it’s about providing our little ones with the opportunity for Tummy Time and floor play. What Tummy Time looks like depends on your baby’s age (check out the pictures) and preferences. A starting place may be four opportunities on a daily basis for baby to have for floor play. Each of those sessions may look different – which is where the flexibility comes into play.
Encouraging Positive Experiences
I truly believe that we as parents become the experts when it comes to our children. Recognizing our little ones’ stress cues can make infant development and promoting milestones much more of a tolerable (and even pleasant) experience. We want to try to catch these cues before we get to later cues like crying. They may look like baby starting to avoid your eye contact; skin color changes (reddened eyebrow areas); yawning; frantic squirming; and more. When you start to notice these cues, it can indicate baby is nearing the end of this activity (and is moving toward a state where there is too much stimulation in their environment).
This is where we help guide our little ones towards resilience. Instead of picking them up right away and removing them immediately from the situation, try helping them exit the situation themselves. The primary example I give is when baby is done with Tummy Time gently helping guide their shoulders and hips, showing them that they can start to get back onto their backs. Resilience in the face of adversity is one of the most invaluable skills we can help our children with.
I can go on and on about infant development, but I would not want the above message lost! I hope that this post left you feeling like baby milestones looked less like mountains and appeared much more manageable. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. You got this, mama! And thank you, Cassie, for giving me a place to help get this message out!
Love & Positivity,
ABOUT: Gabriela Masotti Rochford, MSOT, OTR/L, Certified Breastfeeding Specialist ™️. Contact Bella at Nurturing Lift, LLC
**Disclaimer: Remember that EVERY baby is different. Little one in these pictures is meant to show you the somewhat linear way that we would like the trajectory of infant motor development to go with Tummy Time. If you are concerned about your child’s milestones (e.g. 6 month old unable to lift head up from floor or roll in at least one direction), reach out to your pediatrician as well as a pediatric development specialist (OT or PT) to assess for whether your little one may benefit from early intervention services**
Finding My Postpartum Village
I didn’t understand how true the saying “It takes a village” really is and how badly I needed that village in postpartum. While as a birth educator I know preparing for labor and birth is very important, I didn’t spend nearly as much time preparing for what comes after. Sure, I got the breast pump, nursing pads, mesh underwear, perineal spray, etc. All of those items were helpful. But what I needed, what I really needed, I couldn’t buy on Amazon.
Support. A community of other new moms going through the same challenges, joys, feelings I was going through. This is what I was missing. Although I had my close friends and family, I still felt a bit isolated because no one else was experiencing postpartum with me. In a way I was alone and at the time I didn’t realize that I didn’t have to feel like that. I was stubborn to opening up and asking for more help.
Postpartum Requires Support
At around four months postpartum, I received an invitation to the Fourth Trimester Support Group at The Nesting Place from part owner and colleague Laura Siddons. She asked if I’d like to sample the group to see what it’s all about not just for future postpartum clients, but also for myself as a new mom. The group was around 45 from me and I was suffering a lot of anxiety while driving. I let my anxiety get in the way of going for a while, but eventually I did make it to a group meeting and what I found was an amazing group of friendly, supportive moms, a generous host, and a knowledgeable guest expert. In that meeting alone, I learned baby massage techniques that helped greatly soothe my baby before bed and made life much easier for me.
Since I visited the group, I’ve been able to cultivate my own supportive village out of friends, colleagues, and new moms. I know who I can message at any time during the day when I have a question about my growing baby (now toddler), parenting tips, or when I just need to vent.
I’m so glad I found support. I am a stubborn person who has trouble asking for help, but my experience helped bring down those walls, allow me to get what I need, and learn how to give others that postpartum support freely with compassion and love.
Find Your Support
I’m so excited to now be facilitating a Fourth Trimester Support Group starting September 16. Reserve your spot and start your journey of finding your motherhood village.
I’m a postpartum doula on Long Island. The first response I get when I tell someone this is, “What is a postpartum doula? What do you do?” The answer is quite simple and the service is a life-saver for many.
Mothering The Mother
My job is to help Long Island postpartum moms who have recently birthed or adopted a baby. I help them cope, adjust, heal, and feel confident in their parenting. How do I do this? Well, I provide a myriad of services that combine into a practice of care and support.
The first tenant of being a postpartum doula is to “Mother the Mother.” Us doulas believe that every mama deserves to be nurtured with compassion; so, our role is to give motherly love and support. We don’t replace any client’s mom or other family member. In fact, we often work hand-in-hand with our clients’ family members to give as much help as possible.
What Services Postpartum Doulas Provide
The types of services a postpartum doula does will depend on the doula. I provide full spectrum care to moms, which includes the following:
1. Emotional and physical support for mom
2. Postpartum care – help with healing and perineum care, c-section support, rest, and sleep
3. Infant care – educate the whole family on baby care best practices, help with bathing, sleep, feeding, and more
4. Feeding education – breast and formula
5. Nutrition – guidance for healing and lactation, meal and snack preparation
6. Household chores – light tasks such as washing dishes, doing laundry for the whole family, kitchen cleanup, and organizing the baby’s room
7. Family support – help partners and older children adjust to new family dynamic
8. Mental health – I’m trained to educate and identify perinatal mood and anxiety disorders such as postpartum depression and anxiety
9. Overnight care – I’ll take care of your baby’s needs throughout the night including diaper changes, bringing baby to you for breastfeeding, bottle feeding, and comforting baby so you can get a good night’s sleep
I do all this and even more!
What Postpartum Doulas Don’t Do
Postpartum doulas are not medical health providers. While we can provide evidence-based information on care, we aren’t doctors and cannot answer medical questions. When appropriate, we will refer clients to their pediatricians.
Sometimes people assume we are just like babysitters. However, our job is to put the mom first, not baby. Postpartum doulas will often watch over the baby so that mom can get some rest. But, we don’t completely take over care for extended periods of time unless we are providing overnight care. More importantly we are highly trained professionals that receive certification credentials.
We also typically do not do heavy cleaning like vacuuming, washing the floors, cleaning the bathroom, etc.
Are you a Long Island mom looking for support? Contact me or learn more about postpartum care here.
Coping During Natural Birth Pain. How Do I Do It?
Is coping through natural birth pain possible? This is the most frequent question I get from moms, whether they’re approaching their first or fifth birth. Labor pain appears to be the number one concern about birthing. Many believe an epidural is their only option. But I’m here to tell you, that there are more natural alternatives than you may think.
If having a natural, meaning no medical interventions, birth is important to you, then you’re going to want all the information you can get on coping with labor pain. And yes, I’m saying pain. Some educators don’t like to use the “p” word, mostly because as soon as we hear that word we tense up and think of it negatively. But I want to be realistic here. Yes, it is pain, but it’s not negative. It has a beautiful purpose and it is possible to naturally reduce labor pain through coping techniques.
Become The Ruler Of Your Mind
Staying relaxed and as calm as possible during natural birth contractions is very important. When we feel pain, our body’s stress response is called to action. We get a rush of adrenaline and cortisol, leading to a faster heart rate and increased breathing. This isn’t a bad thing. Our body is trying to help us prepare for fight or flight and the chemicals that flood our body actually helps reduce pain. I know, cool, right?
But the downside of the stress response is that it can quickly turn us to panic and fear if we don’t know how to control it. The trick to coping in labor is to become the ruler of your mind.
You’re already a queen. Now you need to be the queen of your thoughts by thinking positively and learning physical and mental skills to harness your power and focus.
How Do I Learn These Skills?
You can read as many free articles and resources about labor pain coping skills as possible. However, this will not compare to learning these methods from an actual childbirth educator. Reducing pain naturally during labor requires practice throughout pregnancy and you need someone who can go in depth about these techniques and give you alternatives that you can’t get elsewhere.
This is why I’ve partnered with The Nesting Place LI to offer a new online class that deals solely with natural birth coping skills and why all of my online birth education courses cover comfort measures and coping techniques.
Healing During Postpartum? It’s Not Always That Easy
The moment you’ve been waiting for has come and gone. Baby is here! You did it! Whether you went natural, had medical interventions or surgical birth (c-section), you delivered your sweet little one. Now it’s time to go home. Your care provider gives you “The Postpartum Speech” before you leave the hospital. Do this, not that. Don’t push yourself to do too much. If you do, your bleeding will come back or get worse. Take it easy. But here’s the catch – you have a new, tiny human being that depends on you or you and your partner 24/7.
Diapers need to be changed. Dishes washed. Laundry cleaned. When I brought my daughter home, I felt like the medical advice I was given was impossible to follow. Something constantly needed to be done. Take it easy? How? Please someone tell me.
I came home with a third degree tear (Yup. You read that right). Moving was so painful. Sitting was unbearable. Getting up, walking and standing were the worst. Whether you tore like me, didn’t tear at all, or had a c-section, birth is exhausting and recovery can be rough. All I wanted to do was lie perfectly still in bed with an ice diaper and a heating pad on my back and sleep for seven days straight. Alas, this wasn’t an option.
My Privilege & My Mistake
The most eye-opening part of this experience was that I had help. So many other moms don’t have others to rely on after bringing baby home. I had my husband and my mom even stayed with us for the first two weeks. With all this support, I didn’t think I would need a postpartum doula. I thought, “Of course I’ll be able to get rest. There will be three of us to take care of the baby. Why would I need anymore help?” The three of us took turns sleeping, bottle feeding, rocking baby and washing dishes. And yet I was on my feet way more than I should have been.
My body had been through something extreme. Researchers liken birth to completing a marathon or climbing Mount Everest. We were all taking care of the baby. There wasn’t much time to take care of me, too, though my family tried their best.
Learning to Balance
While getting rest to the extent I needed to heal more quickly was not going to happen, I realized not getting a postpartum doula was a mistake and that this process was going to take a lot more time. My bleeding would come back, I’d stay in bed for day. Bleed, rest, repeat. Bleed, rest, repeat. I had to learn my new limits for those first six weeks.
I needed to heal and take care of myself; I needed to take care of my baby. Those two things were in constant conflict of each other. I suppose this is one of the earliest lessons in motherhood – the need for balance. I’m still learning.
Sending love to all you mamas!